Chartwell Marine and Zelim Develop Unmanned Rescue Vessel

Scottish start-up Zelim, developing a lifesaving system for offshore energy, has partnered with naval architect Chartwell Marine to deliver a remotely operated unmanned rescue vessel. 

Chartwell Marine

As the offshore energy sites present a challenging environment for personnel and vessel crews, with a huge risk of man overboard (MOB) incidents and traditional approaches to search and recovery are unsuitable for many offshore facilities, Zelim and Chartwell Marine decided to develop a lifesaving system that can be used in the offshore energy sector, including wind farms.

The ‘Survivor Class’ vessel will be incorporating search technology & remote operations. It will be an unmanned, remotely operated vessel with crucial deployment time reduced while also limiting collateral risk for rescue personnel, according to Chartwell Marine.

According to the developer, the vessel has been designed ‘casualty first’, with accessible features to address limited mobility challenges, such as a pioneering rescue conveyor for recovering MOBs from the water, easy-open door handles, an air-conditioned cabin, and a helicopter pick up zone.

The vessel will be mounted onto offshore structures and deployed into the water via a 25m free fall following MOB or helicopter drowning incidents. To maximise safety in severe weather conditions, Chartwell Marine invested effort into producing a vessel operable in significant wave heights of 4.5m, verified with extensive model testing conducted by independent naval architect Seaspeed Marine Consulting.

After contesting a competitive bid process, the consortium secured Innovate UK funding on two separate occasions, accelerating project timelines to complete the preliminary design phase. The last tranche of funding is being used to deliver the full design and shipyard tender, build oversight and testing.

The increasing distance of projects from shore renders traditional maritime support ineffective. Lifeboats can take several hours to reach the emergency site, and even rescue helicopters can take well over an hour. Additionally, offshore wind farms typically lie out of the standard operating zones of such rescue vessels, rendering rescue procedures even more challenging, according to Chartwel Marine.

‘’Designing the Survivor Class gave us a great opportunity to apply our offshore wind expertise to new challenges, such as free-fall water entry and casualty recovery. For example, the two waterjets will activate prior to contact with the water to stop the vessel from drifting backwards into the turbine. Zelim has shown strong leadership in making offshore wind a safer industry, and we are excited to see where the partnership goes next,’’ says Andy Page, Managing Director, Chartwell Marine.

Photo: Chartwell Marine